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Dog Diarrhea: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Written and published by Tails 'N' Tummies

Dogs are known for being loyal and lovable companions. But let’s face it… they can also be pretty stinky. And while a dog’s smell may not be their most endearing quality, it can be an important indicator of their overall health for owners who know what to look (and smell) for.

If you’re an experienced pet owner, then you may already know that diarrhea is a common problem for dogs. Dog diarrhea can be caused by many things, from diet to chronic illness, and it can be difficult to get rid of. While it's not the most glamorous topic to talk about, diarrhea is often a sign that something is wrong, and it can be quite serious if left untreated.

Here, we'll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments of dog diarrhea. We'll also provide some tips for keeping your own dog’s tummy healthy and comfortable. If your pup has been going a little too liquid lately, read on for help!

Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea is a sign of gastrointestinal distress which, for dogs, is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. And while the cause may vary, much of what goes on in a dog’s gut is related to diet (eating things they shouldn’t), stress, or illness. Unfortunately, diarrhea can also be a sign of other, more serious health issues. Listed below are some of the most common causes of dog diarrhea.

Stress or Anxiety

Dogs experience stress and anxiety in a similar way to humans. If your dog is exposed to something new, scary, or even exciting, he may develop stress-related diarrhea. This is especially common in nervous dogs, and known triggers include an introduction to new people or animals, car travel, separation from the family, and more.

Garbage Toxicosis

Garbage Toxicosis, also known as “Garbage Gut”, occurs when your pup gets into the trash or eats foods he shouldn’t (and yes, this can include table scraps). Garbage Toxicosis can also occur from the simple act of overeating.

Food Allergy or Intolerance

Just as with humans, dogs can develop allergies to specific food items or ingredients. Diarrhea is a common response to exposure to an allergen and if this is the situation for your own pup, his bowel movements may not return to normal until the allergen is removed from his diet.

Change in Diet

If your pup has been eating the same type of food for several months or years, he may develop diarrhea when new food is introduced. This situation is not so much related to tolerance as it is to routine and is very common.

Use of Antibiotics or NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

While antibiotics and NSAIDs serve an important purpose in the body, they are often not well-tolerated by pets who have a history of stomach sensitivity. If your pet develops diarrhea following the use of a prescription drug, stop the medication immediately and give your family vet a call.

Consumption of Poisonous Plants or Substances

Always use caution when selecting plants and greenery for your home or outdoor space. While they make look pretty, many of the most popular plants available are extremely toxic to dogs. Some of the most common include Sago Palm, Aloe Vera, and Philodendron. Household cleaners are also toxic when consumed, so be sure to store your cleaning supplies safely and out of your pup’s reach!

Presence of a Foreign Object or Blockage

If your pup is known to eat things he shouldn’t, such as socks, toys, or underwear, his diarrhea may be caused by a foreign body. Put simply, these items, when swallowed, can cause a blockage of the intestinal system, preventing healthy gastric mobility and causing diarrhea (usually accompanied by vomiting and/or inappetence).

Viruses

Another cause of diarrhea can be the presence of a virus in your pet’s body. Some of the most well-known and dangerous include Parvovirus (especially in young dogs or puppies), Distemper, and Coronavirus (though not the same strain you or I may contract).

Parasites

If there are intestinal parasites present in your dog’s body, this can be another cause of diarrhea. Some of the most common parasites include hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. Parasites are especially common in puppies and, while gross to look at, are not concerning if treated quickly. Most parasites can be treated with an oral dewormer prescribed by your veterinarian.

Chronic Illness

Diarrhea can be an accompanying symptom of many chronic illnesses. Some of the most well-known include kidney or liver disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Syndrome (IBS), Pancreatitis, and even cancer.

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

It can be alarming to discover the presence of blood in your dog’s stool, though, fortunately, this is not always cause for concern. Small amounts of blood in your pup’s stool can be caused by inflammation of the gastric tract. This is a common occurrence if your pet has an upset tummy or is stressed out.

If, however, you notice large amounts of blood in your dog’s stool, you should contact a veterinarian right away.

It is also important to familiarize yourself with the normal color of your pet’s stool (as gross as it may sound) so that you can be in the know when there is an issue. Dark black or tar-like stool, for instance, can be a sign of internal bleeding. If you notice this color change in your own dog’s stool, regardless of the consistency, we recommend that you call your veterinarian first thing.

Mucus in Dog’s Diarrhea

You may see, on occasion, a small amount of mucus-like material in your dog’s stool. In small amounts, this can be normal. Mucus can act as a sort of lubricant for your pet’s intestines, allowing them to pass fecal material more easily and without strain.

However, large or persistent amounts of mucus can indicate the presence of intestinal parasites, a common situation that can usually be resolved with identification of the parasite type (done via fecal exam by your veterinarian) and treatment with an oral dewormer.

If you notice large amounts of mucus AND blood in your pet’s stool, he may be developing a condition known as Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome (HGE). This condition, often characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or lethargy, usually happens acutely (suddenly) and can be linked to the ingestion of fatty foods. Dogs with HGE will produce stool that looks like raspberry or strawberry jelly and has an overwhelmingly foul smell.

Frequently Asked Questions

As a pet parent, you want to ensure that your pup is safe, happy, and healthy. One way you can do this is by asking questions so that you can educate yourself about common conditions and how to treat them. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to dog diarrhea.

How Long Should Diarrhea in a Dog Last?

The duration of your pet’s diarrhea is linked directly to the cause. Dog diarrhea can occur suddenly and can last anywhere from a day or two to weeks or even months! Again, identifying the cause of your pet’s diarrhea is essential in predicting the duration of it.

Dogs combating a chronic illness, such as pancreatitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), may go through several episodes of diarrhea each year. These episodes are often referred to as “flares” and can be triggered by a variety of things, from food to stress.

If your dog’s diarrhea lasts for more than a few days, dehydration can be a concern. When your pup has diarrhea, his body essentially rids itself of essential moisture in order to evacuate whatever is causing the gastric irritation.

Bottom line? If your dog’s diarrhea persists for more than a few days, it may be wise to involve your veterinarian in their treatment. Dogs with diarrhea can easily become dehydrated and may benefit from either IV or subcutaneous fluid administration.

Sometimes, drinking plenty of water just isn’t enough.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Have Both Diarrhea and Vomiting?

The short answer? A resounding NO.

It is not normal for a dog to have both vomiting and diarrhea because these symptoms, even individually, are not normal at all. Diarrhea, as we’ve discussed, can be caused by a variety of conditions, from stress to diet to chronic illness, and vomiting has an equally long list of potential causes. If your pet develops both symptoms simultaneously, he may be suffering from:

  • Foreign bodies or blockages (which often require surgical intervention)
  • Parvovirus (which is extremely contagious and can be life-threatening)
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Ingestion of toxins or poisons (such as rodent killer or Sago Palm)
  • Intolerance of medication (such as an antibiotic or NSAID)

If your dog has suddenly developed vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, he may be suffering from a more serious problem and should be taken to your family veterinarian right away. When it comes to your pet’s gastrointestinal health, don’t wait until it’s too late!

My Dog Has Diarrhea But is Acting Fine?

If your dog’s symptoms can be linked to a stressful situation or dietary indiscretion, he may have one or two episodes of diarrhea and act totally normal. Most dogs have an incredibly high tolerance for pain or discomfort and will not be held back by such a pesky thing as diarrhea. If your dog is acting just fine and diarrhea resolves quickly, there is usually no cause for concern.

However, some dogs will continue to behave normally despite the presence of more serious illness or injury. If your pet’s diarrhea lasts for more than a few days, it’s a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian (even if he’s acting just fine).

Dog Diarrhea Treatment

Dog diarrhea is perhaps one of the most aggravating conditions for pet owners because a “quick fix” treatment just doesn’t exist. As with humans, diarrhea often has to run its course through the body, which may cause your dog to have accidents in the house or increased urgency to go outside. You may also notice straining or that he has to go more frequently.

While your pup’s diarrhea won’t be fixed overnight, there are many treatment options for pet owners to pursue that may shorten the duration of diarrhea and get your pup feeling better in no time.

“What can I give my dog for diarrhea?” you may ask. Keep reading.

Home Remedies for Diarrhea in Dogs

If your dog has diarrhea, there are a few home remedies you can try to help ease their symptoms. First, try feeding them a small amount of plain, cooked white rice with boiled chicken. Be sure NOT to season the chicken or rice, as this may aggravate their already-upset tummy. This mixture can help to soothe your pup’s stomach and firm up their stool.

You can also mix a teaspoon of pumpkin puree or plain yogurt into your dog’s food. Pumpkin is rich in fiber and can help to firm up loose stools, while plain yogurt is a great source of probiotics that can help restore healthy gut bacteria.

When treating your dog for diarrhea at home, make sure they are getting plenty of rest and fluids. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, so it's important to make sure your dog stays well-hydrated. Offer water frequently, and if they're not interested in drinking on their own, you can try adding ice cubes, diluted chicken broth, or Pedialyte to their water source.

With a little care and home treatment, your dog should be feeling better in no time!

Diarrhea Medicine for Dogs

Involving your veterinarian in your pup’s treatment plan can be a great way to get to the heart of the issue. After all, they see tons of dogs with diarrhea each day and are the true experts when it comes to treatment. Plus, not only will a vet visit result in effective treatment, but they will also be able to help you identify the cause. And as we’ve stated previously, learning the cause of your pup’s diarrhea is key to understanding duration, severity, and more.

A prescription-strength diarrhea medication for dogs can be a godsend when your furry best friend is dealing with an upset stomach. But diarrhea medicine is not a one-kind-fits-all solution. The type of medication your dog needs will depend on the cause of the diarrhea.

For example, if the diarrhea is caused by a food intolerance or sensitivity, your veterinarian may prescribe a prescription diet. If the diarrhea is due to an infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. And if the diarrhea is the result of stress or anxiety, your vet may recommend a calming supplement or anti-anxiety medication.

Ultimately, the best medicine for your dog is the one that addresses the underlying cause of the diarrhea. So, if you're unsure about which diarrhea medicine to give your dog, always consult with your veterinarian first. With the right treatment, diarrhea can usually be resolved relatively quickly and without any long-term consequences.

Food for Dogs with Diarrhea

While there are many over-the-counter medications that can help to firm up your dog's stool, sometimes the best course of action is to simply adjust their diet. Learning what to feed a dog with diarrhea can be so important in the quest to resolve their digestive issues.

If your dog has diarrhea, you'll want to avoid giving them any foods that are high in fat, as these can make the diarrhea worse. Instead, focus on feeding them simple, easily digestible foods like white rice, boiled chicken, or cottage cheese. As is true with many other digestive-related canine conditions, the food that your pet should or shouldn’t have has less to do with type or brand and everything to do with ingredients.

If your own pup develops diarrhea frequently, he may be dealing with an underlying allergy or food intolerance. One great option for reducing the frequency of diarrhea is to switch your pet’s primary food to a bland, prescription diet. Some of the most popular and effective include:

  • Hills I/D Digestive Care
  • Royal Canin Gastrointestinal
  • Hills W/D Multi-Benefit
  • Purina Pro Plan E/N (Gastroenteric)

With a little patience, love, and the right food, your dog will be back to their old self in no time!

Probiotics for Dog Diarrhea

In many cases, the cause of diarrhea can be difficult to determine, but one thing is certain - the resulting gastrointestinal upset can be uncomfortable for your dog and disruptive for your household. When learning how to stop diarrhea in dogs, one great option you may come across is the use of probiotics. Probiotics can maximize your pet’s gut health and prevent the recurrence of diarrhea.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are similar to the good gut bacteria that naturally occur in your dog's digestive system. These beneficial bacteria help to support gut health and maintain a healthy balance of gut flora (resulting in healthy stools). Probiotics can be given to dogs with diarrhea to help replenish the good gut bacteria that may be lost during an episode of gastric upset.

And if purchasing a probiotic supplement for your pup isn't doable, consider adding one of these probiotic-loaded food items to their diet:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Goat's milk
  • Cheese
  • Turmeric
  • Bananas
  • Apples

Probiotics are safe and well-tolerated by most dogs, and they may provide relief from diarrhea. If your dog is experiencing frequent or severe episodes of diarrhea, talk to your veterinarian about whether probiotics may be a helpful addition to your dog's treatment plan.

To Sum it All Up

We hope that this article has armed you with the knowledge necessary to effectively deal with your own pup's diarrhea. Remember, it is important to pay close attention to your dog's diet, environment, and lifestyle in order to determine the root cause of the problem. With a little bit of detective work and some patience, you should be able to get your furry friend back on track in no time!

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